AMSTERDAM, March 30 (Reuters) - The European Central Bank could start winding down its massive asset buying scheme earlier than planned but only if the economy continues to outperform expectations, Dutch central bank chief Klaas Knot said on Thursday.
The euro zone economy, on its best run in a decade, has already performed better than projected for the most part since September and the strong run could still continue, Knot, a policy conservative who has opposed many of the ECB's past easing measures, told a news conference.
"Only if the economy does even better than we now expect in our estimates could we consider bringing the tapering forward,” Knot said, referring to the ECB's plans to buy 60 billion euros worth of bonds each month until the end of the year.
"But since September last year, the economic surprise indexes have turned round and are on quite a high level," Knot said. "They are better than our expectations. And why shouldn't that continue in the rest of the year?"
The ECB plans to buy at least 2.3 trillion euros worth of bonds, all in the hope of cutting borrowing costs to revive growth and ultimately generate inflation.
Knot added that even if the asset buys continue until the end of the year, as now planned, they should then be wound down as soon as possible in 2018.
But he dismissed calls by some policymakers to review the bank's guidance for keeping rates at their present or lower levels until well after the asset buys end.
"I think this sequence makes sense, the forward guidance makes sense and I don't see a need to revisit that now,” Knot said.
"It's a (sequencing) that has also been applied in the U.S. and the UK when exiting, and the logic is one of a consistent communication message which is neutral along the yield curve and which prevents giving conflicting views as to the front end and the long end of the yield curve." (Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Writing by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Alison Williams)